After reading Mike Dawson’s comments on Measure S last week, I felt compelled to correct several incorrect assumptions contained in his letter.
His first comment included government “living within its means.” It is important for us all to be aware that ECCFPD has not had the means/revenue to effectively provide the service most citizens expect. As previously explained, because of Prop 13 limits, we have been paying for a rural level of service when the reality is the community has grown to require a suburban level of service. The cities and communities have grown without any adjustments to the apportionment of funding. In this case our fire district’s “means” has been below the industry standard and below the rest of the county, in revenue, pay and services. Thirty years of underfunding the fire district has finally caught up with us.
Next were comments of pension reform and “crying wolf.” While many municipalities are working on pension reform, the issues are extremely complex. There are many laws and statutes that define what can and cannot be “reformed” and it takes decades for any savings to be realized. Furthermore, our firefighters are already paid far below that of their county and Bay Area counterparts. They are a distant last when it comes to staffing levels and compensation – there is no more room to be cut. There is no “crying wolf.”
It’s very clear that if Measure S fails, half of our remaining fire stations will be closed almost immediately, leaving us with only three stations to protect the communities that have relied on as many as eight fire stations in the past. This is neither a scare tactic nor a matter of “crying wolf.” It is the reality facing each and every one of us.
Lastly was a comment regarding Brentwood possibly separating itself from the district and forming its own fire department. While even though the unincorporated communities pay a higher 9 percent compared to Brentwood’s 7 percent, the scenario of detachment is highly unlikely due to many factors and Government Code 56668, which LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission), the regulating agency, must consider.
Moreover, even if Brentwood was able to detach, its citizens still travel, visit family and friends, own businesses, shop and work outside of its boundaries and are likely to need emergency services when away from home or traveling Vasco, Marsh Creek and Highway 4.
I agree that it is important to look closely at the consequences this proposal brings, as well as any new taxes. Although I feel taxed out, the ramifications of Measure S are beyond any scare tactic, and the consequences would be felt immediately. If the measure fails, your insurance is subject to increase and cancellation, firefighters will be laid off, fire stations will close and vital emergency response times will increase. This puts lives and property at risk. In this scenario, we all lose.
As a resident, former LAFCO commissioner and taxpayer, I urge you to get the facts, and vote Yes on Measure S.